Brussels talks to set EU presidency agenda


TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny will seek to establish “clear lines of communication” prior to Ireland’s looming presidency of the EU when he and more than half the Cabinet hold discussions with the European Commission in Brussels today, a Government spokesman said.

Mr Kenny will hold one-to-one talks with Commission chief José Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy on the sidelines of the meeting with the college of 27 EU commissioners.

“It will be an engagement about agenda-setting for the Irish EU presidency to get some thoughts of the existing commissioners and to establish clear lines of communication, strong working relationships from the very outset, so that we can get outcomes during the course of the Irish presidency,” the spokesman said.

In a speech tonight to the Brussels branch of the Institute of International and European Affairs, Mr Kenny would be stressing that “for the duration of the presidency, the emphasis of Europe needs to be on jobs and growth, the prerequisite being stability both of the euro itself and of the euro zone”.

Today’s meetings take place in the aftermath of last week’s joint statement by finance ministers from Germany, Finland and the Netherlands, which was seen as contradicting a pledge by EU leaders in June to help break the link between bank and sovereign debt.

The Government spokesman last night played down the significance of the finance ministers’ declaration and said the June 29th statement was “a very clear signal of intent and a decision on behalf of all the heads of government to very clearly break the link between bank and sovereign debt”.

He added: “There was also clear language in relation to Ireland that referred to the sustainability of our debt and to continued support for our performance in relation to our programme.”

Asked if the issue was going to be raised today, the spokesman said: “I have given you the context of the college of commissioners’ meeting tomorrow, which is quite a full agenda and we need to lay down a clear foundation and clarity in relation to what our EU presidency will be about, which is a jobs and growth agenda underpinned by a prerequisite for stability in the euro zone.

“Do not underestimate how determined we are to get a result, we are, but we have to go about it in a way that gets the result.”

The Taoiseach will be accompanied to Brussels by 10 Government figures: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, and Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton.

Mr Kenny and Mr Barroso will have bilateral talks at 11.30am in the commission’s headquarters in the Berlaymont building for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, the Taoiseach and the commission chief will chair an hour-long plenary meeting between the Irish delegation and the college of commissioners.

This will be followed by a working lunch in the Berlaymont, an occasion that may provide an opportunity for Mr Noonan to take stock of the Irish situation with economics commissioner Olli Rehn.

Mr Kenny and Mr Barroso will take reporters’ questions after the lunch meeting. The Taoiseach will then cross the street to the Justus Lipsius complex, headquarters of the European Council, where he will meet Mr Van Rompuy, who presides over EU and euro zone summit meetings and oversees preparations for them. With European politics dominated by the unresolved debt crisis, Irish ministers and officials will be charged with advancing a crowded legislative agenda in EU ministerial councils and talks with MEPs.

The meetings in Brussels coincide with the arrival in Dublin today of European Parliament president Martin Schulz, who addresses the Dáil tomorrow.